A simple bowl of white bean pasta with spinach gets dressed up with a flavorful garlic oil made with a secret flavor boosting ingredient - anchovies! It’s an easy and budget friendly weeknight dinner!
I know this looks like a basic bowl of white bean pasta. There's spinach. There's cannellini beans. There's parmesan (a lot more parmesan than pictured by the time I finally ate it!). But lurking below the surface is a secret ingredient that brings this basic looking bowl to new levels of amazingness....anchovy garlic oil!
You're going to have to stay with me on this one. Like 90% of the population, the taste of anchovies right out of the tin is pretty ick to me. Let me say, I am NOT an anchovy lover.
Buuuuut, warm them up in a little olive oil or butter, add garlic and you've got nutty, garlicky, umami goodness. Gone is the briny, fishy flavor and in it's place, you've got a sauce that tastes like no other. Just trust me on this one. Remember, this is the girl who once got in a physical altercation with her little brother because he put anchovies on her cheese pizza.
Anchovies and Omega-3 Fats
You might be surprised to learn that anchovies are a rich source of omega-3 fats. We often think about salmon or tuna, but anchovies also contain a hefty dose. While we generally don’t eat anchovies in the same portions as salmon or tuna, at least not in the states where we get those little briny ones rather than the fat, plump ones frequently served fried over in Europe. But they are a great way to sneak in some more!
I've talked before about the mood boosting benefits of omega 3 fats found in fatty fish. Long story short, omega 3s are incorporated into cell membrane in the brain, which reduces inflammation, speeds cognitive processing and may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. If there's one specific nutrient most crucial for brain health in my mind, it's omega 3 fats.
Yet, it's tricky to get all the omega 3s you need! Fish can get expensive, especially wild fish that’s extra richin omega-3s. While canned wild tuna and salmon make it more affordable, theres only so much tuna salad you can eat. That's where anchovies come in! The anchovy-garlic oil in this white bean pasta recipe is really versatile. Here’s some other ideas for using it:
As a sauce for white pizza
Drizzled over roasted or grilled vegetables
Stirred into Greek yogurt to make a dip
Served over roasted chicken
With crusty bread for dipping
Whole Wheat Pasta
I cook with both white and whole wheat pasta. I use whole wheat pasta when I can because it has more filling fiber and nutrients. But some types of pasta sauce, like creamy sauces, just don’t taste very good with it. However, I love garlic and olive oil sauces with whole wheat pasta, especially this anchovy-spiked one - the nutty flavor of the sauce goes really well with the nutty flavor of the whole wheat pasta in this white bean pasta recipe.
White Bean Pasta with Spinach - an Easy Weeknight Meal!
This pasta dish is super easy to throw together, thanks to canned beans, bagged spinach and walnuts. It’s one of those pasta dishes you can actually make in less than 30 minutes.
One of my favorite meal planning tricks is always having ingredients on hand for tasty pantry meals. This white bean pasta with spinach recipe is one of those pantry meals for which I always have ingredients on hand because I never get sick of it! All you have to do is swap out frozen spinach for fresh, and everything else is pantry friendly.
White Bean Pasta Recipe Adaptions
Another meal planning tip - I love to use “template” recipes, recipes that I can cook by heart without a recipe, and adapt them slightly by adding other ingredients to keep things interesting. Some of the other ingredients I like to add to this dish are black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers, especially ones with some spice. If I have leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken on hand, you could also add that for extra protein. I’ve also served this with dollops of pesto or tapenade.
White Bean Pasta with Spinach and Garlic Oil Recipe
8 ounces 100% whole grain penne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 2-ounce tin of anchovies, drained and chopped
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
Parmesan, for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on high heat. Cook penne according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup starchy pasta water and place pasta back in the pot.
Heat olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and red chili flakes. Cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add anchovies and saute 1 minute, breaking down anchovies further with the back of a spatula. Turn off heat.
Add anchovy garlic sauce to the pasta in the pot. Turn on medium heat. Add spinach and white beans and reserved pasta water and cook until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Season with pepper (should have enough salt from the sauce). Pour into a bowl and garnish with walnuts and parmesan.